Baker: ‘Lack of respect’ for coronavirus leading to clusters of new cases

ANDOVER, MASS. (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday said a “lack of respect” for the dangerous nature of the coronavirus is to blame for clusters of new cases that have been popping up in Massachusetts in recent days.

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The behavior that people are exhibiting at both private and recreational gatherings is concerning because, in some cases, mask-wearing and social distancing has become an afterthought, Baker said during a news conference that followed a tour of Pfizer in Andover.

“The bigger issue is not so much the size of some of these gatherings, especially the private ones and the ones that are going on in backyards…The bigger issue is, honestly, the behavior generally at these which is not socially distanced, no masks, and in some respects a lack of respect for how this virus works and how it moves from person to person,” Baker said.

Baker also said the state plans to “talk about” whether to revise limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

“I think that’s one of the things we’re talking about,” Baker said when asked about gathering size limits.

Current guidance instructs people to limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, and a maximum of 100 people for outdoor events.

President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, Dr. David Rosman, told 7NEWS earlier this week that the recent uptick in cases should serve as a wake-up call to those not abiding by the state’s recommendations.

From a crowded party boat in Boston Harbor to a packed house party in Chatham, Rosman said people are letting their guard down during the ongoing pandemic.

Baker stressed that people need to understand the virus only survives and thrives by jumping from person to person.

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“We also know that one of the most effective tools that we have in the toolbox to keep it from jumping from one person to another is to wear a mask or stay at least six feet away from somebody,” Baker said. “Those things are pretty much confirmed by everybody.”

Baker said health officials are currently looking into other clusters across the state to determine how and when they happened. At least eight lifeguards in Falmouth recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Most of the clusters that have developed so far have all involved what I would refer to as private recreational activity and behavior,” Baker said. “The weather may be nice and we may have a fairly low positive test rate at this point, but it is no time to let up on the basic tools that manage and support infection control.”

Baker acknowledged that most Bay State residents have been following the guidance on masks and face coverings but he said there is still a “significant” portion of the population who continue to ignore safety orders that have been put in place to curb the transmission of the virus.

“You go into a restaurant, or a supermarket, or a retailer, you will see most of the time most of the people wearing a mask,” Baker said. “I promise you will also see examples and circumstances of a significant percentage of people not wearing a mask, not socially distancing, and not doing the things that got us to this point where we are today.”

Baker urged residents to start doing a better job with adhering to basic safety guidance during private and recreational activities.

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A recent rise in coronavirus cases on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket was blamed on hordes of summer tourists who have been flocking to the islands, officials said.

Baker said the clusters on the islands were also due to poor recreational behavior.

“To all our residents, I can’t express this enough, don’t be careless or complacent,” he said.

The state reported 356 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, and many cities and towns saw an uptick in positive test rates in the last 14 days.

Baker did not say whether the state is considering rolling back its reopening plan.

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